British Columbia

British Columbia
Motto: Latin: Splendor sine occasu
(English: Splendour without diminishment)
Capital Victoria
Largest city Vancouver
Largest metro Metro Vancouver
Official languages English (de facto, not de jure)
Demonym British Columbian[1]
Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point
Premier Gordon Campbell (BC Liberal)
Legislature Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
Federal representation in Canadian Parliament
House seats 36
Senate seats 6
Confederation 20 July 1871 (6th province)
Area  Ranked 5th
Water (%) (2.1%)
Population  Ranked 3rd
Total (2010) 4,510,858 (est.)[2]
GDP  Ranked 4th
Total (2009) C$191.006 billion[3]
Per capita C$41,689 (7th)
Postal BC
ISO 3166-2 CA-BC
Time zone UTC−8 & −7
Postal code prefix V
Flower Pacific Dogwood
Tree Western Red Cedar
Bird Steller's Jay
Website [ / ]
Rankings include all provinces and territories

British Columbia (B.C.) (French: la Colombie-Britannique, C.-B.) is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without Diminishment"). Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858. In 1871, it became the sixth province of Canada.

The capital of British Columbia is Victoria, the fifteenth largest metropolitan region in Canada. The largest city is Vancouver, the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, the largest in Western Canada, and the second-largest in the Pacific Northwest. In 2009, British Columbia had an estimated population of 4,419,974 (about two million of whom were in Greater Vancouver). The province is currently governed by Premier Gordon Campbell, who announced his resignation on November 3, 2010, and will step down upon selection of his successor as party leader at a leadership convention in February, 2011.

British Columbia's economy is largely resource-based. It is the endpoint of transcontinental highways and railways and the site of major Pacific ports, which enable international trade. Because of its mild weather, and despite the fact that less than 5% of its land is arable, the province is agriculturally rich, particularly in the Fraser and Okanagan Valleys. Its climate encourages outdoor recreation and tourism, though its economic mainstay has long been resource extraction, principally logging and mining.


The province's name was chosen by Queen Victoria when the Colony of British Columbia, i.e. "the Mainland", became a British colony in 1858.[4] It refers to the Columbia District, the British name for the territory drained by the Columbia River, which has its origins and upper reaches in southeastern British Columbia, which was the namesake of the pre-Oregon Treaty Columbia Department of the Hudson's Bay Company. Queen Victoria chose British Columbia to distinguish what was the British sector of the Columbia District from that of the United States ("American Columbia" or "Southern Columbia"), which became the Oregon Territory in 1848 as a result of the treaty.


British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, by the U.S. state of Alaska on the northwest, and to the north by the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The current southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty, although its history is tied with lands as far south as California. British Columbia's land area is . British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than , and includes deep, mountainous fjords and about six thousand islands, most of which are uninhabited.

British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. The province's most populous city is Vancouver, which is not on Vancouver Island but rather is located in the southwest corner of the mainland (an area often called the Lower Mainland). Other major cities include Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, and New Westminster in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Langley in the Fraser Valley; Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; and Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior. Prince George is the largest city in the northern part of the province, while a village northwest of it, Vanderhoof, is near the geographic centre of the province.[5]

The Coast Mountains and the Inside Passage's many inlets provide some of British Columbia's renowned and spectacular scenery, which forms the backdrop and context for a growing outdoor adventure and ecotourism industry. Seventy-five percent of the province is mountainous (more than above sea level); 60% is forested; and only about 5% is arable.

The Okanagan area is one of various wine-growing regions in Canada and also produces ciders; other wine regions in British Columbia include the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, and the Fraser Valley. The cities of Kamloops and Penticton, and rural towns of Oliver, and Osoyoos have some of the warmest and longest summer climates in Canada, although their temperature ranges are exceeded by the warmer Fraser Canyon towns of Lillooet and Lytton, where shade temperatures on summer afternoons often surpass but with very low humidity.

Much of the western part of Vancouver Island and the rest of the coast is covered by temperate rainforest. The province's mainland away from the coastal regions is not as moderated by the Pacific Ocean and ranges from desert and semi-arid plateau to the range and canyon districts of the Central and Southern Interior to boreal forest and sub-arctic prairie in the Northern Interior.

A few Southern Interior valleys have short cold winters with infrequent heavy snow, while those in the Cariboo, the southern part of the Central Interior, are colder because of their altitude and latitude, but without the intensity or duration experienced at similar latitudes elsewhere in Canada. The northern two-thirds of the province is largely unpopulated and undeveloped, and is mostly mountainous except east of the Rockies, where the Peace River District, in the northeast of the province contains BC's portion of the Canadian Prairies.


As a result of Kuroshio Current (also known as the Japan Current), which crosses the North Pacific Ocean, coastal British Columbia has a mild, rainy oceanic climate. Due to the blocking presence of successive mountain ranges, the Interior of the province has a semi-arid climate with certain locations receiving less than 250mm (10") in annual precipitation. The annual mean temperature in the most populated areas of the province are above , the mildest anywhere in Canada.

Winters can be severe in the Interior and the North. For example, the average overnight low in Prince George (roughly located in the middle of the province) in January is . The coldest temperature in British Columbia was recorded in Smith River, where it dropped to , one of the coldest readings recorded anywhere in North America. Southern Interior valleys have shorter winters with brief bouts of cold. Heavy snowfall occurs in the Coast, Columbia and Rocky Mountains providing healthy bases for skiers.

On the Coast, rainfall, sometimes relentless heavy rain, dominates in winter because of consistent barrages of cyclonic low-pressure systems from the North Pacific, but on occasion (and not every winter) heavy snowfalls and below freezing temperatures arrive when modified arctic air reaches coastal areas for typically short periods. On the opposite extreme, summers in the Southern Interior valleys are hot, for example in Osoyoos the July Maximum averages , hot weather sometimes moves towards the Coast or to the far North. Temperatures have gone over in the past, with the record high being held in Lytton, when the temperature rose to on July 16, 1941.[6]

The extended summer dryness often creates conditions that spark forest fires, from dry-lightning or man-made causes. Coastal areas are generally milder and dry during summer, under the influence of stable anti-cyclonic high pressure much of the time. Many areas of the province are often covered by a blanket of heavy cloud and low fog during winter, despite sunny summers. Annual sunshine hours vary from 2300 near Cranbrook to less than 1300 sun hours per year in Prince Rupert, located on the North Coast, just south of the Alaska Panhandle.